74°Clear

ARLnow Weekend Discussion

Hey now, All-Star Week starts today, so keep your eyes peeled for MLB’s glitterati around Arlington and D.C. this weekend.

The weather should be pretty hospitable to guests arriving for baseball’s midsummer break, though things are set to get hot and steamy soon enough.

If you’re looking for things to do, swing on by Rosslyn’s newest public art installation, or check out our full event calendar.

You can also catch up on our most popular stories from the past week:

  1. Police Searching for Stabbing Suspect in Westover
  2. Report: Arlington Will Add 24,000 New Homes Through 2040
  3. State Supreme Court Could Decide Fate of Highlander Motel Redevelopment
  4. Arlington’s Car Decal Program Could Soon End, Though Its Fees Would Stick Around
  5. Chemical Leak at Fairlington Dry Cleaners Prompts Neighborhood Worries

Head down to the comments to discuss these stories, your weekend plans or anything else local.

Flickr pool photo via John Sonderman

0 Comments

New Daycare Center in Courthouse Set to Win Permit

A new daycare center could soon be open for business for Courthouse.

The Merit School nearly has the final approval it needs to open up a new facility in an office building at 2311 Wilson Blvd.

The County Board is reviewing a use permit to allow the daycare company, an offshoot of a similar school in Woodbridge, to start operating in the space, and has approved several other child care facilities in the area in recent months. The Board has made the availability of child care in the county a particular focus over the last few years, and is still working on an overhaul of Arlington’s policies governing the facilities.

The 7,600-square-foot space could someday serve as many as 103 children, and includes a nearly 3,000-square-foot playground around the rear of the building.

According to a letter to county staff from the company’s managers, the facility “will be designed with separate areas designated for children by age,” serving kids from toddlers up to 12-year-olds.

The daycare center will have eight parking spaces reserved for its employees in a nearby underground garage, with another six saved for pick-up and drop-offs by parents along N. Adams Street.

The Lyon Village Civic Association raised a few “concerns about potential increased traffic and parking issues in the neighborhood,” according to a county staff report. But county staff ultimately decided to simply require the daycare center to make its parking rules clear to parents in advance, rather than forcing the company to make any significant changes.

The County Board is set to vote on the permit for the new facility at its meeting Saturday (July 14). Board members are planning to unveil their childcare changes in a July 24 work session.

0 Comments

County Board Set to Examine Neighborhood Conservation Reforms

Amid concerns about deep cuts on the way for the Neighborhood Conservation program, the County Board is kicking off a new effort to identify some potential reforms.

The Board decided Tuesday (July 10) to direct County Manager Mark Schwartz to draw up a process for studying the program in more depth over the next two years or so, in order to better understand how it can become more efficient and see where it might overlap with other county efforts.

“By adopting this, we’re saying, no, we’re not looking for a slow, or any kind of, death [for the program],” said Board member Erik Gutshall. “But we’re taking a moment here to hit the reset button and double down on the program, to invest the time and staff resources to study remaking the program to meet its original goals.”

Neighborhood Conservation was formed in 1964 as a way for communities to lobby for money to complete modest infrastructure projects, like new sidewalks or landscaping, but Schwartz targeted it for hefty cuts in his proposed 10-year Capital Improvement Plan.

In all, the program is set to lose $24 million over the next decade, leaving $36 million in its coffers to finish out existing projects selected for funding between now and 2028. Some civic association leaders have charged that such a steep cut amounts to killing the program in its entirety.

Others in the community have countered that the program may very well need to end, considering that the cost of projects funded through Neighborhood Conservation have shot up in recent years.

Tuesday’s decision by the Board essentially represents a middle ground between those two positions. The county’s tight financial position means it likely won’t be able to avoid some steep cuts to the program, but Board members also believe they can pursue some changes to Neighborhood Conservation to ensure its long-term viability.

“Hopefully, this keeps faith with the communities, while at the same time acknowledging the reality that the program has had some challenges,” said Board member John Vihstadt.

Vihstadt hopes the review of the program will provide a “holistic, countywide perspective,” including whether the county might be better served by directing Neighborhood Conservation funding to its “Complete Streets” program instead.

Schwartz is set to establish a working group and lay out a timeline for a review process by Sept. 30, with the ultimate goal of having results in hand by the time the Board reviews its next CIP in 2020.

In the near term, Board Chair Katie Cristol suggested sending a smidge more money to the program as “a show of faith.” County staff managed to earn an unexpected $1 million in state funding for some construction at one of Arlington’s group homes for adults with disabilities, and Cristol suggested using the savings to fund one additional Neighborhood Conservation project.

Yet the Board has plenty of other pressing needs left unaddressed by a challenging CIP, and Cristol’s colleagues didn’t immediately sign off on such a change.

The Board is set to finalize the CIP when it reconvenes Saturday (July 14).

0 Comments

County Could Speed Up Design Work on Army Navy Country Club Access Road

County officials seem to have found some money to speed up design work on an access road to link the Arlington View neighborhood to Army Navy Drive.

County Manager Mark Schwartz initially proposed some hefty delays for the project, which is set to stretch across a section of the Army Navy Country Club, in his proposed 10-year plan for county construction efforts. Under his proposal, design work on the effort wouldn’t even start until fiscal year 2027, with construction set for 2029.

The county’s budget challenges have ensured that Arlington officials haven’t suddenly found enough money to build the road, and its accompanying bike and pedestrian trails, right away. But county staff did manage to track down about $230,000 to pay for design and engineering work starting in fiscal year 2020, officials told the County Board during a work session Tuesday (July 10).

That news is quite welcome for Board members and residents alike, considering that the county has been working to build the 30-foot-wide road since 2010, in order to better connect Columbia Pike to Crystal City.

The road would run from S. Queen Street, near Hoffman-Boston Elementary, to the I-395 underpass, where a country club access road meets up with Army Navy Drive. The process of securing an easement to even cross the country club in the first place was a challenging one for the county, but the two sides ultimately struck a deal after the county agreed to allow the club to build a larger clubhouse than county zoning rules would ordinarily permit.

Staff cautioned the Board that reallocating this money for design work won’t do anything to change when the project gets built, at least for the time being. But members supported the change all the same as a way to provide some more detailed plans for the Board to consider a few years from now, when the county’s fiscal picture could improve.

“At least it’s getting us somewhere,” said Board member Erik Gutshall. “We’ve got to move the ball forward.”

In order to get that design work moving, the Board would need to pull $105,000 away from some minor arterial road projects over the next two fiscal years, and another $125,000 away from the “Walk Arlington” program for pedestrian-centric projects. The latter move will leave just $50,000 available for the program in 2020 and 2021.

But Board members seem to believe the funding shake-up is well worth it, particularly as bicycling advocates stress the importance of the project.

“There is a compelling case to be made that this will allow one of our largest growing population centers, Columbia Pike, to have more access to one of our major commercial and office centers of Crystal City,” Board Chair Katie Cristol said. “The most important thing is we get the scope of this proiect to the point where we can have those conversations about feasibility.”

County transportation director Dennis Leach cautioned that additional examinations of the project could reveal that it’s too challenging for the county to pursue. He noted that the “steep grades” in the area, combined with its proximity to woodlands and I-395, could all combine to make the effort “extremely expensive.”

Initial estimates pegged construction costs around $5.2 million, but the county hasn’t updated that figure in years.

Cristol added that there are also “big questions” about whether the county can afford to bring the project into compliance with federal accessibility laws. However, she did suggest that one avenue for addressing those cost concerns might be redirecting some revenue generated by the commercial and industrial property tax on Crystal City businesses, as the area would potentially stand to benefit from the project.

“I look forward to the prospect of a taking a better scoped project and having a conversation with the business community about whether it’s a proper use of that tax money,” Cristol said.

The Board will make the reallocation of money for the access road official when it votes to approve a final Capital Improvement Plan on Saturday (July 14).

Photo via Google Maps

0 Comments

Arlington Preparing to Embrace Dockless Vehicles With Pilot Program

Arlington is now gearing up to officially embrace dockless bikes and scooters, even though some scooters have already arrived in the county.

County officials have spent the last few weeks mulling how to respond to the sudden appearance of dozens of Bird’s dockless scooters around Arlington in late June. Though the county did receive some advance warning from the company that it planned to start operating in Arlington, County Manager Mark Schwartz and the county’s legal team weren’t sure exactly how to react to Bird’s arrival.

Some communities have even chosen to take legal action against dockless vehicle companies that start operating without the local government’s consent, but the county announced in a statement today (Thursday) that staff determined there “are no regulations currently in place that would prohibit the operation and use of these devices in Arlington.” The county doesn’t have any regulation prohibiting the scooters on sidewalks, but it does ban “motorized vehicles” from county bike paths, which would include the scooters.

Moving forward, county transportation spokesman Eric Balliet told ARLnow that officials are planning to unveil a “pilot demonstration project” to test out all manner of dockless vehicles this fall.

Much like D.C.’s current pilot program, Balliet says he envisions the effort helping to “provide structure to the deployment, operation and use of scooters and dockless bikes within the county and to evaluate the overall performance and gauge the impacts of these mobility devices.” He says the current plan is to deliver a framework for that effort to Schwartz and the County Board for approval this September.

Should the county design a program similar to the District’s efforts, dockless companies like Bird would be able to partner with the county to participate in the pilot. Lime Bike has already been working with the Crystal City BID, as it eyes the county for expansion. Skip’s CEO also says his company, the third dockless scooter outfit operating in D.C., is interested in Arlington.

Balliet did not immediately provide details on what form the pilot program might take, but County Board member John Vihstadt says he’d be broadly receptive to clearing the way for more dockless vehicles to become available around Arlington.

“New methods of mobility are something we need to embrace,” Vihstadt said. “Some people will say, with the greater consumer choice one has with mobility, is that undercutting the Metro system or our bus system… but I think they can work together. If people have to get to to the Metro, or get to the bus stop, we can utilize these other modes of personal transportation.”

In the meantime, the county is urging anyone using dockless vehicles around Arlington to be considerate of other drivers and bike riders. The county also released a new tip sheet today with suggestions on the best ways to use the scooters, while officials hammer out a more detailed policy.

Between Bird and the other dockless companies currently operating in D.C. and Maryland, the county estimates that roughly 100 dockless vehicles pop up in Arlington each day.

0 Comments

Police Plan First Community Outreach Meetings Under Restructuring Plan

Arlington County police are planning a new round of community outreach meetings starting tonight (Thursday), the first quarterly gatherings under a restructuring plan designed to roll back some of the department’s services.

Communities in the northern half of the county will get a chance to meet with a police outreach team at the Bozman Government Center (2100 Clarendon Blvd) at 7 p.m. Thursday night. Anyone living in the southern sections of Arlington will have a similar opportunity this coming Wednesday (July 18) at the Fairlington Community Center (3308 S. Stafford Street).

The county once had enough officers to attend regular meetings with individual civic associations to discuss community concerns. But the department’s staffing challenges have forced Chief M. Jay Farr to cut back on some services as he tries to recruit new officers, and, starting in mid-May, Farr is devoting officers only to squads covering the northern and southern halves of the county.

They’ll now hold quarterly meetings with community members, like the ones planned for this month, instead of the more frequent check-ins. In a release, the department said the July meetings will also include a presentation on fraud prevention and “how you can protect yourself as a consumer.”

Police have contact information for the outreach teams available on the county’s website.

If you’re unsure about which meeting to attend, the county also has a tool available where you can enter your address and see if you should speak with the northern or southern outreach team.

Photo courtesy of Blake Tippens

0 Comments

Dorsey: Stop Trying to ‘Protect Neighborhoods’ from Density

County Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey is urging people around Arlington to embrace density in their communities and abandon the idea of “protecting” certain neighborhoods from development.

Without that sort of shift in mentality, Dorsey expects the county will never meet its stated goals of bringing down housing costs and making Arlington more accessible for people of all income levels.

“We have to look inward and look at ourselves and some of the things that are holding us back,” Dorsey told the audience at last month’s annual Leckey Forum put on by Arlington’s Alliance for Housing Solutions. “We can’t kid ourselves into thinking we can have it both ways, to tout our progressive bonafides with housing and affordability while also accepting the framework that certain neighborhoods need to be protected. Ask ourselves: protected from what?”

Dorsey would concede that he doesn’t want to “change in any way the notion that neighborhoods are for people who want to grow their families and stay in Arlington for generations.”

But he did challenge people in wealthier neighborhoods to consider that fighting against more dense development often amounts to “preserving a level of unaffordability and segregation” that already exists across the county.

“Often, you hear, ‘We want to mitigate density, we want to concentrate density in certain areas, we want density to be something that we don’t deal with,” Dorsey said. “If that’s our framework and our paradigm, we are losing a key tool to deal with affordability.”

In the past, some critics have charged that the county is facilitating the overdevelopment of affordable housing in places like the western end of Columbia Pike while exempting large swaths of affluent North Arlington from more affordable development.

Dorsey sees the constant churn of redevelopment of small, single-family homes into ever larger homes on the same property as helping to contribute to this problem, arguing that “the whole idea that we have one dwelling per lot and we allow for the increase in footprint on said lots, that absolutely factors into our affordability challenge.”

“It restricts housing supply and increases the pricing of housing on those parcels,” Dorsey said.

Dorsey acknowledges that forcing this sort of shift in attitudes won’t be easy, however, and he lamented that “the pursuit of effective public policies to achieve these outcomes are often thwarted by political considerations.”

Yet he also has hope that “these considerations… are not immutable,” and he believes people in the county will prove to be receptive to his arguments, if they’re framed correctly.

“What I hear as often as, ‘We want to protect our neighborhoods and mitigate density,’ is that ‘I want my neighborhood to be a place where I can interact with people of diverse backgrounds, I want my kids to go to school where they interact with people from diverse communities and diverse life experiences,'” Dorsey said. “We need to hold people to that, and engage them on those levels and expose them to tools to actually make that a reality.”

0 Comments

Darna Lounge Facing More Legal Trouble Due to Permit Woes

The Darna Restaurant and Lounge in Virginia Square has run into a bit more legal trouble, with the county now pursuing criminal charges against its owner.

County officials briefly shut down the restaurant earlier this year after discovering a variety of health and safety code violations on the property, located at 946 N. Jackson Street.

Darna managed to address some of those problems and re-open in April, long enough to capitalize on its newfound notoriety for being the scene of a TMZ-worthy incident involving NBA star Tristan Thompson, but it seems the restaurant’s managers have yet to resolve all the problems the county identified.

Prosecutors have charged owner Amhad Ayyad and his Maaj Corporation with one count of performing work without proper permits, a misdemeanor charge. He’s set for a hearing in Arlington General District Court on Aug. 1, according to online court records, and could face a fine of up to $2,500 if he’s convicted.

Per a staff report prepared for the County Board, the trouble stems from Ayyad’s failure to secure a building permit from the county for some “unpermitted construction and modifications” inspectors discovered on the property when they briefly shuttered Darna.

Staff write that Ayyad has rectified the bulk of the code violations inspectors identified earlier this year, but still hasn’t managed to win the necessary permit for that construction, some of which involves “a stage used for the live entertainment” at the restaurant.

He submitted several applications for new permits, prompting the County Board to allow Darna to remain open in the meantime, but county inspectors rejected each one. Code enforcement officials ultimately decided to pursue the misdemeanor charge “due to the lack of progress by [Ayyad] to secure the building permit, complete the required modifications and to schedule and pass the final inspection.”

Even with all this legal wrangling, the Board is still set to allow Darna to stay open as Ayyad resolves these issues. The Board will consider a two-month use permit renewal for the lounge at its meeting Saturday (July 14), giving Ayyad until September to make some progress on these issues.

0 Comments

‘Strange’ Burglary Leaves Arlington Forest Cafe Owners Puzzled

The unusual overnight burglary of an Arlington Forest coffee shop has left its owners scratching their heads about what prompted the theft.

Employees at the Sense of Place Cafe, located at 4807 1st Street N. just off Arlington Blvd, arrived early this morning (Wednesday) to discover the glass in their front door smashed in and the cash register emptied. Co-owner Kay Kim expects the thieves made off with about $150 in all.

However, Kim was puzzled that the burglars left the restaurant’s expensive espresso machines untouched, and showed no interest in the iPad the cafe uses for customer orders.

Yet her notebook full of recipes and notes on the precise way to roast various types of coffee beans, one of her most prized possessions, is missing. She stored it in a desk drawer in the cafe’s back office, and she expects only someone intimately familiar with the store would know to look for it.

“It makes us feel like the target wasn’t money,” said Anna Seo, Kim’s niece and an employee at the store. “It’s all very strange.”

Neither Kim nor her sister and co-owner, Kim Seo, can think of any former employees who might’ve harbored a grudge after leaving the cafe, which has been open for just over a year now. Arlington County police spokeswoman Kirby Clark said the department is investigating the incident, but doesn’t have any description of the suspect (or suspects) just yet.

“This has never happened before and we never thought about it,” Kim Seo said. “This area in Arlington was supposed to be pretty safe. It’s very weird and scary.”

Nevertheless, she says the business is open as normal, even if it is still missing the glass from its front door.

Anna Seo notes that the whole incident “could’ve been much worse,” all things considered. But she is still frustrated that her aunt would lose so much hard work, so suddenly.

“Each of our roasts change, based on the season and the temperature, and she had that all written down,” she said. “Now, she’ll basically have to start from scratch.”

0 Comments

Firefighters Extinguish House Fire in Leeway-Overlee

Firefighters extinguished a blaze in a home in the Leeway-Overlee neighborhood this afternoon (Wednesday).

County first responders were called to the 62oo block of 22nd Road N. to put out the fire. The fire was mostly concentrated in the attic, according to scanner traffic.

The home’s occupants managed to leave without incident after the fire started, according to a tweet from the fire department.

0 Comments

Salvation Army Opens Shelter to Serve Human Trafficking Survivors

The Salvation Army is opening a new, 24-hour shelter for survivors of human trafficking, a resource the charity is billing as the first of its kind in the D.C. area.

Leaders with the group’s National Capital Area Command say they can’t reveal where, exactly, the new shelter is located in the region in order to protect the people they’re trying to serve. But they held a ribbon-cutting for the new facility all the same today (Wednesday) at the organization’s Arlington headquarters in Alcova Heights.

“This strikes at the heart of the core values of the Salvation Army,” said Maj. James Hall, the charity’s commander for the D.C. region. “We believe this is the best way we can make a difference on a transformative issue addressing injustice.”

Hall added that the entire effort is being paid for by private donations. He’d originally hoped to win grant funding for the shelter, but struck out on that front.

State Sen. Dick Black (R), who represents Prince William and Loudoun in the General Assembly, commended the effort as an essential one to deal with a “rapidly increasing problem” around the region.

He placed most of the blame for that trend on gang members crossing the Mexican border, which he believes has “literally become a torrent pouring into the country” even as data show net migration levels falling in recent years.

“Runaway children are so easily preyed upon by these people,” Black said.

Kyla Conlee, the shelter’s director, says the new facility will have about half a dozen staff members in all, with two “on call” at all times if someone who’s recently escaped a sex or labor trafficking situation needs help.

She says the shelter will have eight bedrooms, and will be open to both men and women looking for a place to stay. Conlee notes that the facility will only be able to house people for up to 10 days at a time, but her staff plans to work with a network of other charitable organizations to find a more permanent living situation during their stays.

“The most immediate need someone has coming out of a trafficking situation is: where am I going to sleep that first night?” said Stuart Allen, a federal prosecutor in D.C. “I can’t take them in. Law enforcement can’t take them in… But now, victims will have a place to go that first night they need those services.”

Conlee added that her staff will work with local emergency rooms to provide basic medical care for their clients, and even more advanced care for victims of sexual assault. She also wants to offer them the basics at the facility, like new clothes and food, and plans to rely on the community for donations.

Anyone interested in making a donation can drop off goods at the Salvation Army’s Arlington center at 518 S. Glebe Road.

0 Comments

State Supreme Court Could Decide Fate of Highlander Motel Redevelopment

The Virginia Supreme Court could soon decide the fate of the Highlander Motel near Virginia Square, as the property’s owner continues to push to redevelop the site.

Arlington County has been locked in a legal battle with local businessman Bill Bayne for nearly two years now over the property at 3336 Wilson Blvd, arguing that Bayne shouldn’t be able to use an existing parking lot for the same purpose after replacing the 55-year-old motel with a CVS Pharmacy.

The matter went before the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals in July 2016, and was twice considered by Arlington’s circuit court, with a judge ultimately deciding last year that Bayne should be able to move ahead with his plans. But Bayne says the county is appealing that ruling to the state’s highest court, which could drag out any redevelopment of the property indefinitely.

“There is no reason for them to fight it,” said Bayne, who also owns the Crystal City Restaurant and co-owns Crystal City Sports Pub. “There’s no upside benefit for them… You’re dealing with an old, outdated property that’s behind its time. It’s much better for a neighborhood to have a CVS than an old, beat-up hotel.”

Bayne hopes the Supreme Court will decide by late August whether or not it will hear the county’s appeal. If the court takes the case, Bayne fears it could drag out the process for “another year” or more, further endangering his already damaged plans to redevelop the property.

But even if the court rejects Arlington’s appeal, Bayne worries his deal with CVS has already likely “fallen apart.” He was set to sign a 50-year lease to bring the pharmacy to the site, bringing him close to $45 million over the term of the lease, and believes he may never engineer a redevelopment of the lot even if he emerges successful in court.

“There would’ve already been a CVS built and open, but they’ve dragged me through a legal process that’s taken years,” Bayne said.

County Attorney Steve MacIsaac did not respond to requests for comment seeking clarity on why the county is appealing the court’s ruling.

The county’s legal filings over the years suggest Arlington officials were concerned with the size of the pharmacy Bayne hoped to build, particularly on a site bordering residential neighborhoods just on the edge of Clarendon, even though county lawyers challenged the project on the basis of some arcane zoning laws.

The legal spat over the Highlander began when Bayne asked for permission from the county to use a parking lot just behind the motel on N. Kenmore Street as parking for the proposed CVS.

A county zoning administrator pointed out that the hotel’s owners received permission when the motel was built back in 1963 to use that lot as “transitional” parking, and never sought any subsequent zoning change. That same lot would help Bayne’s company meet the county’s parking requirement for a retail building of the CVS’s size, a shop that would essentially replace the motel in its entirety.

The county changed its zoning ordinance in 1983 to ban the use of transitional lots for meeting minimum parking requirements, as Arlington moved toward a more transit-focused mentality and officials viewed requests for large parking lots more skeptically. Accordingly, the zoning administrator rejected Bayne’s proposal, setting up a hearing before the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Board members pressed Bayne’s lawyers on whether he couldn’t simply shrink the proposed CVS and reduce the need for more parking. Land use attorney Evan Pritchard noted in the July 16, 2016 hearing that CVS viewed a smaller location as “no longer worth the trouble” of pursuing.

The Board unanimously denied Bayne’s appeal, arguing that the zoning administrator’s interpretation of the law was the correct one, even if such a distinction over parking lots seemed trivial.

“I’m not saying the proposed commercial use is a bad one, or that it even isn’t in the interest of Arlington County, but the County Board has written the zoning ordinance this way,” Board member Peter Owen said during the hearing.

Bayne appealed that ruling to the county’s circuit court, arguing in an Aug. 11, 2016 complaint that simply using the parking lot for a different establishment would not “change the character or intensity” of the property.

But in motions opposing Bayne’s appeal, county attorneys reiterated their historical zoning arguments and repeatedly cited the size of Bayne’s proposed CVS as a troublesome factor.

“It is as a result of the size of the CVS that all required parking can’t be located on the site,” assistant county attorney Christine Sanders argued in a trial on the matter.

In an Oct. 26, 2017 motion, Sanders also dubbed Bayne’s effort “an end run around the public process of a rezoning” from a residential designation to a commercial one, which “continues to foist upon the neighborhood a noxious use” of the property.

Retired Judge Alfred Swersky sided with Bayne, and denied the county’s subsequent request for another hearing, setting up a potential state Supreme Court fight.

Bayne says he “fully expects” to emerge victorious in the end, whether he’s ultimately able to realize his vision of a CVS on the property or not. He simply remains frustrated that this process has even dragged on for so long in the first place.

“It’s a good thing for the county, how can you argue with it?” Bayne said. “They’ve been told they’re wrong twice by a judge, why do you need to be told a third time?”

0 Comments

County May Ask State for $78 Million for Second Crystal City Metro Entrance

(Updated at 10 a.m.) Arlington is getting ready to seek nearly $78 million in state transportation funding to build a second entrance at the Crystal City Metro station.

The County Board is considering submitting the project for “Smart Scale” funding, money handed out by the Commonwealth Transportation Board for big-ticket projects around the state. If approved, Arlington would have the money it needs to add an eastern entrance to the station at the northwest corner of the intersection of Crystal Drive and 18th Street S., perhaps by sometime in 2024.

The county has spent years studying the prospect of a second entrance to ease access to the Crystal City station, particularly as planners project substantial increases in housing development in the area over the next few decades, with or without Amazon’s potential arrival. The project would also include two street-level elevators and a new underground passageway and mezzanine to reach the Metro platform.

Yet the county has hit some roadblocks when it comes to finding funding for the $91 million project.

Arlington’s recent budget woes, brought on by declining commercial tax revenues and new funding obligations for Metro service, means that the county will need to rely on outside funding for the second entrance. The county expected to get most of that money from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, a regional body that funds major transportation improvements.

But the NVTA recently told the county that it can only chip in about $5 million towards design work for the project, as the group adjusts its own funding plans after losing out on tens of millions in annual revenue as a result of a deal to provide dedicated funding to Metro.

That forced Arlington officials to turn to the statewide “Smart Scale” program to for funding, an outcome local lawmakers predicted as a result of the NVTA losing out on money as part of the Metro deal. The county is similarly concerned about how it might pay for second entrances at the Ballston and East Falls Church stations in the coming years due to these same factors, but officials only chose to submit the Crystal City project for “Smart Scale” money.

State transportation officials will evaluate the Crystal City entrance against other projects across the state, and award funding based on factors like how much congestion they will relieve and how much economic development they’ll spur. Should Arlington win the full $78 million it’s asking for, county officials plan to use the NVTA money and some local tax revenue to fund the remainder of the project’s cost, according to a staff report.

The county also plans to submit three more projects, with a total cost of roughly $10.1 million, for “Smart Scale” funding.

Those include the expansion of Transitway service in the Crystal City area, the installation of new equipment and software to create a demand-based pricing system for county parking meters and the procurement of software to better manage Arlington Transit (ART) bus service.

More on the parking meter proposal:

Performance Parking Deployment in Commercial Corridors ($6.1 million)

This project will install equipment and software to support demand-based pricing of on-street meters and improved public information about parking availability. On-street parking is limited by the finite length of curb on County streets and competing curb uses while offstreet parking is very expensive to build. Given these limitations, it is critical that the parking supply is managed effectively. Modern parking technology enables a much more efficient management of the system. County policy, as stated in the Master Transportation Plan’s Parking and Curb Space Management Element, supports the use of multi-space meters and other high performing technologies. The project will support the installation of hardware and software to monitor and display occupancy, turnover, and parked duration information from the curbside metered spaces and County owned and operated off-street facilities in order to support demand-based pricing of on-street meters and improved public information about parking availability.

The County Board will formally vote to endorse these “Smart Scale” applications at its meeting this Saturday (July 14).

Photo via Arlington County

0 Comments

Police Still Looking for Wrong-Way Driver Who Caused Head-On I-66 Crash

(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) Arlington police are still searching for a man who drove the wrong way on I-66 Sunday (July 8) and caused a major accident before fleeing the scene.

County police have charged 28-year-old Victor Ebai of Springfield with felony hit and run and eluding police in connection with the incident, which ended only after he crashed head-on into another car near Rosslyn on I-66.

Police subsequently revealed Monday (July 9) that officers pulled another man from Ebai’s vehicle after it caught on fire following the crash. The passenger was transported to George Washington University Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage says police are not planning to charge the passenger with a crime. U.S. Secret Service spokesman Shawn Holtzclaw added that his agency isn’t pursuing charges against the man either. Neither would say if police believed the man was in the car voluntarily or against his will.

Holtzclaw also confirmed early reports that the victim in the head-on crash was a federal government worker who was heading to work in D.C. at the time of the crash. They’re withholding the victim’s identity, but did say they were taken to Virginia Hospital Center with non-life threatening injuries.

The Secret Service is involved in the investigation because the incident started when one of its agents noticed a red Chevrolet Sonic driving the wrong way early Sunday morning on I Street NW in D.C. The agent tried to pull the driver over, but he kept driving, continuing to drive against traffic in the eastbound lanes of I-66.

The two cars collided shortly afterward, prompting a large emergency response. Police believe Ebai managed to flee the area on foot, escaping despite a search for Ebai that involved the Fairfax County police helicopter.

Arlington County police are leading the investigation into the incident.

Photo via Google Maps

0 Comments

The Children’s School Advances Plans for Former Alpine Restaurant Site

The Children’s School is moving closer to finding a permanent new home, as it pushes forward plans to build a three-story daycare facility along Lee Highway.

The child care program for Arlington Public Schools employees is looking for a county permit to redevelop the space once occupied by the Alpine Restaurant at 4770 Lee Highway, marking the first formal proposal that the school would seek to build a a 27,500-square-foot facility on the property.

The Children’s School got its start in 1987 at the Reed School building in Westover as a childcare program owned and operated by school system employees, but APS’ plans to build a new elementary school at the site pushed the program elsewhere.

The co-op is currently operating out of a Ballston office building, and would look to use the Alpine site to expand its operations and serve about 235 children in total. Anywhere from 60 to 70 of those students would likely be part of the “Integration Station” program, which is reserved for kids with developmental or other disabilities, allaying initial worries that The Children’s School wouldn’t be able to maintain its relationship with the program.

The school is hoping to demolish the current restaurant on the property, then build a three-story facility complete with two outdoor play spaces and a one-level underground parking garage.

In all, there would be 42 parking spaces located on site, as well as nine extra spaces on an adjacent lot to serve the roughly 40 employees at the program. The building would also include a “covered drive aisle” to facilitate easy pick-up and drop-offs by parents, with hours running from about 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. each weekday.

The play areas, designed to serve kids from 2 months old to 5 years old, would be located on the second- and third-floor roofs of the property, and both will be enclosed by a 7-foot-tall mesh fence. Those will face away from the road and toward the residential neighborhoods behind the building.

County staff are recommending that the County Board approve the project, writing in a report that the program has managed to work up the right sort of plans to mitigate any potential traffic impacts along Lee Highway. The Lee Highway Alliance also endorsed the project in a letter to the Board.

Board members will consider the permit request Saturday (July 14) as part of the Board’s “consent agenda,” which is generally reserved for non-controversial matters that are passed without debate.

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list